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Vote Now for the Most Disagreeable Poison Phrases

I got great responses to my request for Poison Phrases. It’s up to you now, to rank the phrases according to the ones that bother you the most. Click here and rate away. (Unfortunately the posts that came in today did not make the survey but can be viewed on the blog.) I’ll report the results next week.

Please note that like all Poison Phrases, context determines the impact. In life I recommend giving the benefit of any doubt. When rating, consider the phrase in the most disagreeable of contexts.

Issue 235
September 6, 2006

This Week in the World
The Poison Phrase Police

A few years ago I chose “no problem” as the Poison Phrase of the week. Recently I ran across a posting by Dianna Booher that made a similar argument that responding to a routine request by saying “no problem” implies that the request could be a problem.

A comment on Dianna’s post suggests that she and the others who object to the phrase are nitpicky, and have personal problems and insatiable needs for validation.

The commenter both missed the point and made a useful point. It’s fun to vent about the Poison Phrases that we have been offended by. It’s helpful to learn about Poison Phrases to evaluate our own choice of words. It’s useful to know how Poison Phrases affect us so we can choose responses and avoid reacting. But if knowledge of Poison Phrases turns you into a critic, just waiting for an opportunity to be offended, the study of the phrases becomes detrimental.

Enjoy reading the Poison Phrases in the survey. Let them entertain you and increase your awareness of the impact your words have on others and others’ words have for you. If you become the Poison Phrase Police, be sure you are only policing yourself – and when needed, letting others know how you want to be spoken to.

Post a comment in our blog, here.


PowerPhrase of the Week
The Issue Is with the Policy, Not the Representative

Kris was assessed a late-fee for being one day late on her payment. She explained that the bill came while she was on vacation, she had paid it as soon as she returned, and that the payment cycle did not allow time for any irregularities in her schedule. The representative told her it was company policy to assess a fee. Kris replied,

  • I know that you are only following your company's policies, and I do not mean to take my frustration out on you. My problem with your company's policy is...

Pleasantness won the day, and Kris had her late-fee waived.


Poison Phrase of the Week
Too Sensitive

When Jill complained about how Randy spoke to her, he said,

- You’re too sensitive.

This phrase is one that insensitive people often use to disarm those they disrespect.


Ask Meryl
How to Handle My Mentor?

I have enjoyed a great friendship with my mentor on my new job.

Lately, however, I have experienced being on the receiving end of what feels like uncalled for "digs". One example is her asking me "Isn't it your job to fix the problem?" when we were discussing an unpleasant situation. Another is her asking "Weren't you at the team meeting?" (that we had both attended just last week) when I expressed that I wasn't following what she was saying.

She used to be my boss’ assistant, and when I bring up issues with him, I get the sense that my questions are not welcome.

How do I respond when she make those remarks?

Meryl Responds

I would say,

  • I would love your support with some of the issues that arise with my boss, but I get the sense that you are uncomfortable when I mention them. Would you rather I not bring these challenges to you?

Then when she makes a remark that feels like a put-down, ask for clarification. Say,

  • It is my job to fix the problem. I was hoping you could help me think through how to do that.


  • I was at the meeting, but I'm still not following what you're saying. Did I miss something?


  • That sounded like a dig. Was it intended to be?

Check out your assumptions and concerns about what she says. It sounds like she is a friend but she may have an issue or something that she is not expressing. That could mean that you will need to draw it out of her.

I hope you can get past the issue. Having a mentor is priceless.


Got a question? Send it to us at SpeakStrong. We answer as many questions as we can personally. We may use your question in the newsletter anonymously unless we are asked not to. When we respond, please email us back to tell us you received the response and give us feedback.

Reader Success Story
Continuing to Earn Pippi

I love my Pippi.  She is much larger than I imagined (even though you described her accurately).  I've got her on my desk at home right between my monitor and my photograph of my adorable grandbaby. 

I have to confess that the other night after a heated discussion with my husband, I was trying to blow off some steam at my desk.  I stared at my screen for awhile, then realized I was looking my Pippi right in the eye.  While arguing with my husband, I hadn't said what I meant, I hadn't meant what I said and I was sort of mean when I said it.  So first I apologized to my Pippi and then went out and asked my husband for another chance to communicate my feelings.  He was surprised that I came back out after only a little while, but we were both surprised to find that rather than disagreeing, we AGREED on what we were discussing.  We just didn't communicate our feelings accurately.

Guess what I learned:  This Pippi ain't a one-time deal.  I think I'll have to earn her everyday.


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I Said It Strong Medal
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Ask Meryl

We will respond with our best suggestions. We may publish your question and response anonymously unless you request privacy.We appreciate your feedback on our response. If we publish your question, be sure to check the blog for further suggestions from our readers.

from Meryl

"The Poison Phrase Police serve best when they mainly police their own words."

~ Meryl Runion~
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SpeakStrong Definition:

To express yourself both powerfully & effectively; to say what you mean, mean what you say, without being mean when you say it.

from the wisdom of others

"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it"
Albert Einstein

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